Just before midnight on Tuesday September 12, after hours of last-minute negotiations, 1199SEIU members at Cedar Oaks nursing home in South Plainfield, NJ, and Norwood Terrace nursing home in Plainfield, NJ, reached a contract settlement with AristaCare Health Services. The agreement was ratified by an overwhelming majority of the membership in a vote on Wednesday, September 14.
Three-hundred members of 1199SEIU, including certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, dietary aides, recreation aides, and housekeepers had been in negotiations with AristaCare for nearly two years. With little movement at the bargaining table, members voted to call a 24-hour strike that was slated to begin Wednesday morning.
However, a breakthrough reached during bargaining averted the strike when it was less than 32 hours away. The agreement provides immediate and yearly wage increases for all employees, protects workers’ pensions, and secures high-quality health insurance.
“It was hard work and a long night, but it was worth every step of the struggle,” said Ruby Waller, a member of the bargaining committee who works as a certified nursing assistant at Norwood Terrace. “Our main concern was getting good medical coverage and we got it! This contract means that I can go to the doctor and not have to worry about being unable to afford it.”
Princess Stevens, a licensed practical nurse at Cedar Oaks and bargaining team member, attributed the victory to 1199 members’ unity in the shops. “People were ready to go on strike, and that really moved management at the table. At first they thought we were a joke, but when we all came together as a team and we got closer to the strike, we were able to get the company to settle.”